Bula! We’ve now reached Fiji, the first of the “F” countries (of which there are only three). Fiji’s islands are known for their beaches and year-round warm weather, and are a popular tourist destination. Even if you haven’t visited Fiji, you’ve most likely seen Fiji Water in your local stores, which actually is from Fiji.
Derek and I normally drink tap water, but when globetrotting to Fiji… buy Fiji Water?
We started Saturday morning with some topoi for breakfast, dumplings made from cassava and served in a coconut milk porridge. I used a recipe from one of our go-tos, The World Cookbook. When shaping the dumplings, I worried that the end result wouldn’t be too good, since the mixture was very wet, since I had used pre-grated cassava I found in the frozen food section at the grocery store and thawed. But the balls somewhat held their shape in the cooking process, and were kind of like mochi, the chewy Japanese confectionary made from sweet rice flour.
Derek’s four-word description of the topoi: “Warm, runny, lumpy, mmm.”
While I went out to do some errands, Derek made some Fijian sweet potato bread. After I came back and as the bread was still baking, we watched Geography Now for an overview on Fiji.
As Barby explains, the two largest populations in Fiji are the indigenous Fijians, and the Indo-Fijians, descendants of Indian laborers who were brought to the islands by the British to work on sugarcane plantations. The country’s culture is a blend of indigenous Fijian, European, and Indian. There’s also a small Chinese population, but it’s much smaller than the Indo-Fijian population.
For dessert, we tried some of Derek’s sweet potato bread, which was very moist. He had some evaporated milk leftover from making the bread, and he mixed it with some canned guava nectar and turmeric. We drank his concoction with the bread.
In the afternoon, we watched an episode from the National Geographic series, Islands, about Fiji. The episode discusses how Fiji Islanders have tried to retain old customs like fire walking in the modern world, while embracing some outside ones like rugby and Christianity, and how climate change threatens industries like farming, fishing, and tourism, in addition to their everyday lives. With regards to climate change, I started thinking about how self-centered Americans are, that some of us–including our leaders–deny that climate change exists, just because we don’t see the effects of climate change on our lives to the extent that other people like the Fiji Islanders do.
(As a side note, I’ve noticed that I’ve been inserting American politics, or rather my dissatisfaction with the state of American politics, into recent posts–e.g., fake news in my Eritrea post, U.S. immigration policy in El Salvador. I guess I can’t help it, but I do think making connections between countries and cultures is important. Plus, Earth Day and the March for Science were both this weekend, so maybe that explains why I was thinking about the environment.)
For dinner, Derek made us a lentil potato curry and roti. Both are also Indo-Fijian–we gravitated towards Indo-Fijian recipes this weekend because they were more vegetarian-friendly than dishes that are of indigenous Fijian origin, and the ingredients for the Indo-Fijian dishes were more readily available. We also enjoyed some of our bottled Fiji Water. I wish I could tell you about the subtle nuances in Fiji Water that distinguish it from other waters, but it turns out my palate’s not that refined.
In my research, I found that only one feature film has been released in Fiji, back in 2004, called The Land Has Eyes. We weren’t able to get a copy, and we also opted not to watch movies that have scenes shot in Fiji like the 2000 film Castaway (with Tom Hanks) and the 1980 version of The Blue Lagoon (starring a teenage Brooke Shields), because we didn’t think they would help us understand Fiji any better.
We ate more topoi for breakfast the next morning, and then did chores around the apartment for the week ahead. Since I had extra cassava and coconut milk that I had bought for the topoi, I also made a cassava cake.
For lunch, we tried India Gate, an Indian restaurant in our neighborhood, for the very first time, filling ourselves up on their lunch buffet. We also got a basket of fresh roti.
Dinner was leftover squash curry, roasted eggplant and rice, and afterwards we had some of the cassava cake.
While springtime in Buffalo probably isn’t anything close to Fiji weather-wise, we had a pleasant weekend learning about Fiji. We certainly did enough eating as if we really were on an island vacation. Vinaka–thank you, Fiji! Next up, we leave Oceania and head northwest to Finland. Moce!